History of the Vauxhall Viva

Birth of a classic Vauxhall

history of the vauxhall viva 1960s classic car (2)
Original promotional image from the 1960s

The Vauxhall Viva of today is a small city car that rivals the likes of the Hyundai i10, Volkswagen 'Up' and the Peugeot 108.  But the Viva name model has been around --albeit in a very different form! -- since the 1960s

Birth of the Vauxhall Viva in the 1960s

The appearance of the original old Vauxhall Viva in September, 1963, marked the firm's return to the small-car field. Their previous small car had been the Vauxhall Ten, announced in 1937, which first introduced integral body construction to this country. A year before the announcement of the Viva, the German subsidiary of General Motors, Opel, had come out with the Kadett, and the Viva inevitably showed a family affinity with this model, though in fact only one individual part—the pressed steel rocker—was interchangeable.

The Viva was an unsensational four-seater, practical and along conventional lines, with a square-cut body which was practical rather than outstandingly beautiful. It was a two-door saloon, with a four-cylinder 1,057 cc engine driving through a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox. At the rear it retained a rigid axle.

Vauxhall Viva Models

Originally available in two versions—the Viva and Viva de Luxe (heater and screenclean standard, plus additional interior features and distinguishing touches externally)—these cars were notable for the lightness of all controls, and particularly the sweet operation of the gearchange. There followed the SL (Super Luxury) version, and later came the option of the more powerful '90' engine. Servo-assisted front disc brakes, standard on the '90' models, were available as an option on the other less expensive Vivas.

HA, HB Viva Models

During a three-year production life this first Viva (known by the makers as the HA series) made a considerable impact on the 1 -litre market, and 307,738 examples were built. Then in September, 1966, the new Viva (HB series) appeared, a logical development of the HA but in fact a completely new car in respect of both styling and engineering. The box-like body gave way to an extremely graceful outline which gained instant approval from the motoring public.

The new Viva was 64 inches longer and 31 inches wider, while both wheelbase and track were increased. Engine capacity went up to 1,159 cc through adopting a bigger cylinder bore, and again a more powerful '90' unit was available. The range consisted of the Viva, Viva de Luxe and Viva SL, with the '90' engine an option for the de Luxe and SL. Again the emphasis was on lightness of controls, but the most important breakthrough was in the suspension depart-ment, with coil springs now used all round. Though retaining the solid beam axle, the new Viva was provided with a four-link system of location which gave impressive roadholding. In February, 1967, a modified version of the Borg Warner 35 automatic gearbox became available, and the same month saw the announcement of Brabham added-performance kits, which carried the Vauxhall approval and could be fitted by dealers to the '90' models.

Viva Model Variants - 1967 onwards.

Estate versions, also extremely eye-catching, appeared in June, 1967, in de Luxe and SL finish and with the option of the '90' power pack. A few months later the automatic trans-mission became available on these estates.

Viva Production at Luton

The majority of Vivas were built at Vauxhall's new Ellesmere Port factory, with some assembled at the parent factory at Luton. Experience has confirmed that the aesthetic appeal of the new Vivas is complemented by higher-than-average handling qualities. Their success is confirmed by the fact that by December 31, 1967, a little over 14 months after their original announcement, production of the new Vivas had totalled 177,071.

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